Tuesday, Metro Council members voted on a non-binding resolution to stop investing employee pension fund dollars in privately operated prisons companies.
The resolution, aimed at local privatized prison company CoreCivic, was sponsored by Nashville At-Large Councilwoman Erica Gilmore as well as At-Large Council-woman Sharon Hurt, District 31 Councilman Fabian Bedne, District 2 Councilman DeCosta Hastings, and District 5 Councilman Scott Davis.
“Divestment from private prison operations is based upon broader principles than the potential transgressions of any one company. While the operation of private prisons is legal, deriving a profit from the incarceration of others is a morally bankrupt enterprise with which the Metropolitan Government should not be affiliated,” reads the resolution.
According to the resolution, the Metropolitan Government currently maintains a pension fund which holds in excess of $900,000 in investments with CoreCivic.
“Private Prisons violate human rights,” said At-Large Council Member Gilmore. “Our moral compass should guide us on the issue. By taking a bold action to divest in private prisons, we are promoting proper stewardship of our city pension funds and values, ideas, and principles that are the bedrock of this city.”
CoreCivic was formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which, prior to its rebranding, was the subject of controversial allegations, including claims the company inadequately staffed facilities, engaged in extensive lobbying that included efforts to enhance prison sentences, and failed to cooperate with legal authorities in efforts to avoid penalties or other repercussions.
The ultimate decision on divestment lies with the Metropolitan Employee Benefit Board, with the intent of the resolution to encourage the board “to seek divestment from entities engaged in operating private prisons.”
With some council members questioning whether or not the council should weigh in on which companies the benefits board should invest, as well as whether or not the city is still invested in CoreCivic, the council voted 20-3 to approve the resolution.
CoreCivic released a statement saying: “Unfortunately, much of the information about our company is shared by special interest groups is wrong and politically motivated, resulting in some people reaching misguided conclusions about what we do.
The fact is our sole job is to help the government solve problems in ways it could not do alone—to help ensure the inmates in our care are equipped upon their release never to return to prison, provide solutions for overcrowded and potentially unsafe conditions, and meet many other critical needs efficiently and innovatively.”
On Monday, Gilmore was joined by Councilman Fabian Bedney and Moral Movement TN for a press conference at the Metro Courthouse proposing divestments from private prisons in the Nashville region.
According to a release by Gilmore: “The divest campaign focuses on eradicating systemic racism and to take this step forward to be an inclusive and equitable city for all. CoreCivic owns and operates numerous immigrant detention facilities at the frontlines of the crisis, including Otay Mesa Detention Center in California with continued reports of mistreatment and denial of adequate medical treatment. While the operation of private prisons is legal, deriving a profit from the incarceration of others is a morally bankrupt enterprise with which the Metropolitan Government should not be affiliated.”